Women’s Basketball to Host Hilton Garden Inn Thanksgiving Classic
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – After a challenging road trip, NAU (2-3) returns home to host the Hilton Garden Inn Thanksgiving Classic, the eighth-consecutive season that the Lumberjacks have hosted a Thanksgiving tournament. The Lumberjacks will open play against Utah Valley (1-1) at 6:35 p.m. Wednesday before hosting Kent State (1-2) at 2:05 p.m. Saturday. Utah Valley and Kent State will meet in a neutral site game on Friday at 2:35 p.m.
Admission for all-three games is free with the donation of two non-perishable food items. Wednesday's game can be heard live on 105.1 FM The Big Talker and bigtalkerradio.com.
The Lumberjacks are 2-0 in home games so far this season, having outscored their opponents 71.5-54.5 and outrebounded their opposition 39.5-29.5 in Rolle Activity Center. After going 5-3 at home in non-conference play last season, NAU opened its 2011-12 home schedule with a pair of wins against UC Riverside and Adams State. NAU is + 10.0 in rebounding margin in Flagstaff and the Lumberjacks have a .464 field goal percentage and .483 3-point percentage in two home games this year. Going back to last season, NAU has won five of its last-six home contests.
In its three road games this season, NAU has faced two teams from power conferences and another that is a reigning conference champion. The Lumberjacks opened against Pac-12 member Colorado, playing the Buffaloes even at 40-40 in the second half after trailing by 24 at halftime. NAU then played at South Dakota, which won the regular season Great West Conference championship last season and played in the Women's Basketball Invitational postseason tournament. On Sunday NAU played at Iowa State, which has been to the NCAA Tournament five consecutive years and is relieving votes in both national top-25 polls this season.
After being outrebounded by an average of 5.5 rebounds per game last season, NAU has seen a marked improvement on the glass early this season. NAU leads the conference in rebounding defense, allowing only 34.2 rebounds per game by the opposition. The Lumberjacks outrebounded their first-three opponents, including Colorado, and were outrebounded by only one at South Dakota. Despite struggling in the rebounding battle against Iowa State, NAU is still + 0.8 in rebounding margin for the year, which is fourth best in the Big Sky. The Lumberjacks have four players averaging three rebounds or more this season in Amy Patton (8.0 rpg), Aubrey Davis (5.0), Shay May (3.6) and Katie Pratt (3.2).
Utah Valley comes to Flagstaff with a 1-1 record, having lost at Long Beach State, 75-43, and winning at home over fellow Big Sky member Idaho State, 68-59. The team went 8-21 last season but returns all-five starters from 2010-11 and was picked to finish second in the Great West Conference. Junior forward Sammi Jensen averaged 14.0 points and 10.7 rebound per game last season and has averaged 15.0 points and 10.0 boards in two games this year. NAU and Utah Valley have never before met in women's basketball.
Kent State, which is making its second appearance in the NAU's Thanksgiving tournament (2006), is 1-2 in 2011-12, getting their lone win on a buzzer-beating three pointer to defeat Morehead State. The Golden Flashes, a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC) located in Kent, Ohio, went 20-10 overall last season and advanced to the WNIT, but lost all-five of their starters from the 2010-11 squad. Junior transfer Trish Krewson averages 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game to lead Kent State, which has been outscored by an average of 23.7 points per game and is averaging 33.3 turnovers per game. The Lumberjacks are 1-1 all-time vs Kent State, getting a win in Flagstaff in 2006 and losing in Ohio in 2007.